There are many factors to consider when you start the journey of writing your first novel, like structure, character development and arc, plot, editing, etc. I understand firsthand the difficulties of writing your own book and the kind of work it takes to bring together an engaging and well-rounded product for readers everywhere. It’s a struggle every writer faces, but is often overlooked because the mistakes are so simplistic in nature that we don’t think about it.
What may seem like a good idea could turn out to be the reason your book falters in step. Don’t misunderstand, though. You are bound to make mistakes; no book is perfect. However, what separates writers from authors is the ability to capture these mistakes and reinvent them in a way that benefits your book.
Because of the many elements that all need to come together succinctly to create your first book, it’s important to identify the things you don’t want to be doing as you begin. I remember the biggest writing mistake I’d ever made, and RED ALERT, it involves plagiarism. I can honestly tell you, the one thing all authors fear is plagiarism.
Fortunately enough for me, I wasn’t the one who committed this act, but I was still responsible nonetheless due to my inaction. I was an 18 year old college student involved in a collaborative research project for an analytical report. Each team member was responsible for a specific part of the research, and we were all meant to come together to compare our findings and put together our analysis.
The analysis came together, we turned in our work, and this is where the mistake came into play.
Despite this not having anything to do with fiction literature, it still involved writing, and my failure in catching it nearly cost me my scholarship, but it was a valuable lesson that I still learn from to this day.
What I’ve discovered over the years of my career is that although I may be ghostwriting for my clients, it’s still very much a collaborative team effort, which means no matter what happens, both parties are responsible for the outcome of the project. This is something I didn’t even consider back then, and boy was it a mistake.
Days later, I received a call from student court informing me that I was being assessed for submitting plagiarized work with 5 other people. Thankfully, the responsible party received the reprimand while I and the other students were released with no black marks on our record, but the damage had been done, and I realized with a shocking start that I failed to double check the legitimacy of the research, as well as triple check the paper; a mistake I have never made since.
Now, you’re probably thinking it’s only common sense to catch such a mistake, but we often overlook things considered to be common sense, which is why it’s so easy to make mistakes with drafting your novel. As serious as that mistake was back then, plagiarizing in a novel can cost you so much more than a simple black mark on a school record.
Below, I’ve made a list of 8 mistakes you don’t want to make when you’re starting to write your first draft.
Mistake 1. Giving up when you run out of steam
Creativity has its own flow and it’s natural to feel energy and stamina one minute, and then get discouraged and unmotivated the next. Everything you need to make this your best novel is inside of you and it’s important to learn when it’s time to shut off and give yourself some space away from your book. Take a walk or unplug for a day or two. Your energy will come back soon enough, and you’ll find the motivation to keep on writing.
Mistake 2. Not doing enough research
It takes an outstanding amount of research on topics you’re not fully knowledgeable in to convince even an expert that you know what you’re writing about. You need to do the work and create as much legitimacy in your writing when talking about certain fields or careers in your book. The best way to create authenticity is to find a specialist or expert who can read your work and let you know of any inconsistencies that are happening in your writing.
Mistake 3. Using the same used-up setting
If you read enough books in your life, you find that many of the same genres are written in the same locations, i.e., New York, Tuscany, Paris. While I wouldn’t say you need to stay away from these settings, finding a unique location that takes your reader on a trip they haven’t been on before can be a great way to keep that reader interested in the story while learning about a place they haven’t been to or heard of before.
Mistake 4. Creating dull characters
Every character needs to enhance the readers experience in some way. Small parts are needed when telling a story so don’t forget to fill that character arc with life and substance too. Each element or person you add is a chance to round out the novel even more. You can even create backstories for the smaller characters, and even if the readers never get the chance to read it, it’ll create a deeper and more connected story.
Mistake 5. Rapidly changing points of view
While changing POV’s is not discouraged, it does have to be done tastefully. Many readers get hooked to certain characters and they want to see how their world plays out. If you have another character whose entry requires readers to get into their head, just make sure to wrap up the thoughts and opinions circulating in the first POV before you move on to another.
Mistake 6. Ignoring story structure
Sometimes the structure of the plot can get lost in trying to add as much detail and weaving new characters and their stories in together. You need to find a way to slow down when this happens and try to remain true to the plot and the structure you created when you wrote out your outline in the beginning.
Mistake 7. Not keeping your story open ended
While I love a nice little bow to end your novel with, leaving a little room for the potential of another book or story can leave readers wanting more and inquiring as to a potential sequel. There are always elements that can be stretched and expanded, so find a way to end your first novel with the potential for the story to continue.
Mistake 8. Editing everything yourself
Be sure to do several rounds of editing on your own to fix grammar issues. I suggest moving away from the text and coming back to it with fresh eyes each time you edit. You’ll then need to find a professional editor depending on the type of novel and genre you’ve created.
Writing your first book is one of the most exciting experiences authors have, and with a little guidance, hard work, and patience, you’ll soon be holding your first novel in your hands.
I offer personalized one-on-one consultation services that are based on the help you’re looking for, whether that be brainstorming, strategy planning or proofreading and feedback. You can also sign up for my writing list here for The Best-Selling Authors Club for freebies and bonus content.